Holes punched in the case for thorium nuclear power

Thorium-dreamWriting in Oil Price, Andrew Topf 18 June 2014 discusses the very real impediments to starting a thorium nuclear reactor industry

“One large hole that can be punched in the argument for thorium involves the economics of thorium reactors. Experts say compared to uranium, the thorium fuel cycle is more costly and would require extensive taxpayer subsidies.

Another issue is time. With a viable thorium reactor at least a decade away if not more, the cost of renewable alternatives like solar and wind may come down to a point where thorium reactors won’t be economical. Critics also point out that the nuclear industry has invested too much in uranium reactors – along with government buy-in and a set of regulations around them – to be supplanted by thorium.

As for the “green nuclear” argument, thorium’s detractors say that isn’t necessarily the case. While thorium reactors produce less waste, they also produce other radioactive by-products that will need safe disposal, including U-232, which has a half-life of 160,000 years.

“It will create a whole new volume of radioactive waste from previously radio-inert thorium, on top of the waste from uranium reactors. Looked at in these terms, it’s a way of multiplying the volume of radioactive waste humanity can create several times over,” said Oliver Tickell, author of Kyoto2, speaking to The Guardian.”

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